I used to be fascinated by ancient Egypt and its stone temples dedicated to thousands of half-human, half-animal gods. How could anyone have ever believed in gods like that? Surely they must have all been completely crazy? Not like us cool, rational moderns living in the Age of Reason.
But these days I no longer think I’m living in any sort of Age of Reason. I think I’m living in a time that is as superstitious and credulous as any other in human history, and perhaps more so. It’s just that the crazy things that people believe now are different from the crazy things people believed back then. I’m not even sure there ever was an Age of Reason.
Take the various doctrines that flourished in the 20th century, not long before I was born. Socialism. Communism. Fascism. Nazism. Eugenics. And lots more. They were all different flavours of craziness, and they all crashed and spectacularly burned, often taking millions of lives with them.
But what are the new crazy doctrines of the early 21st century that have superseded them? Well, if you lived through the late 20th century, the one thing that you knew with the most perfect certainty was that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer. It’s probably the one single, universally-shared belief of the late 20th century. And if you lived in the early 21st century, you’ll have found that this absolute certainty had grown and expanded to become Smoking Causes All Diseases. And that’s why the global medical profession demanded – and got – draconian smoking bans everywhere in the world, to stop the “epidemic” of smoking. It’s no longer just that smoking causes disease, but that smoking is itself a disease. And now vaping too.
Another newcomer is the equally crazy belief, shared by millions, that Carbon Dioxide Causes Global Warming. Nobody believed anything like this 25 years ago, and now suddenly lots of people believe it. Why? Because some climate scientists told them, and they trust experts. They let experts do their thinking for them. Which means they’re not thinking for themselves. Which means they’re not thinking.
And in Europe there’s the added crazy belief, again shared by millions, that if the nation states of Europe could be dissolved and merged together into a single superstate, there would never be – could never be – another war in the European continent.
Add to that environmentalism, the Green movement, feminism, gay rights, etc, etc, and you have a whole confection of beliefs that are as utterly crazy as any from the 20th century, or from ancient Egypt for that matter.
And if there is any shared characteristic of these various doctrines, it seems to be that they all start life as the innocuous suggestions of a very few people, which then become the fashionable beliefs of millions, before going on to become unquestionable certainties and iron dogmas which all must believe, and which nobody can be allowed to question.
And if there is a further characteristic of these doctrines, it also seems to be that as certainty in each of them grows, they provide their true believers with a complete and comprehensive vision of both the past and the future. They know which way history is going. They know the direction of the tide of human history.
A century or two from now, I have no doubt that people will look back in wonderment on our time just like I look back in wonderment at ancient Egypt. And they will ask how people could have possibly believed all these crazy things. Yet what people believe, in every era of human history, is always one sort of craziness or other. And it’s craziness that has grown from hesitant, uncertain origins into the most perfect and tyrannous certainty – like a thunderstorm or hurricane growing from a few faint zephyrs – before finally blowing itself out.
It never ends. It’s non-stop, never-ending craziness. It’s a different craziness each time, but it’s all still craziness.
I visited Egypt once, and stayed for two weeks in Luxor. And I roamed daily among its temples and tombs, armed with books of hieroglyph translations.
One day, when I was sitting on one of the sandstone blocks of the huge, sprawling ruin of the temple of Amun in Karnak, leaning back against a wall of sandstone hieroglyphs, a large insect with long wings and legs started buzzing in front of my face. I tried to bat it away, but it kept coming back. So eventually I shifted away from where I had been sitting – whereupon the insect alighted on the wall behind where I’d been sitting, and crawled into a crack between the stones. And as it did so, I recognised that it was probably the very same bee that was used as the hieroglyphic symbol for the kings of lower Egypt, and which was ubiquitous in the temple of Karnak.
A few days later, very near the same spot, I saw a falcon land on a lamp standard in the temple precinct. We watched each other closely for a few minutes, before it flew lazily away across the temple. Such falcons were symbols of the god Horus, and were as ubiquitous in the temple of Karnak as long-legged bees.
Above us in the sky on both days there shone the bright sun, the circular hieroglyph for which was the symbol of the sun god Ra.
The temple may have long been a ruin, and the religion that had erected it may have long been dead, but its gods – the bees and falcons – still survived, and still inhabited the temples in which they’d once been worshipped, and upon which the sun still continued to shine. The ancient Egyptians must have been intensely aware of all the many living things that surrounded them, and constructed an entire ecosystem of thousands of gods around them, with humans as their co-equals. They were naturalists, and their naturalistic religion simply recreated and reflected the natural world around them.
So maybe those ancient Egyptians weren’t quite as crazy as I once thought?
Frank… It’s NOT craziness! It’s REAL!!! I hate to say it, but I’ve finally been converted. Science has, at last, beaten its way into my brain and convinced me.
The study that did it just came out today, and it’s conclusions are so plain, so obvious, so absolutely inescapable, that the World Will Stand In Awe!
Maybe it was secondhand smoke that did Romeo and Juliet in all those years ago!
– MJM, about to head off for the Brooklyn Bridge….
‘The analysis showed that, setting aside age, profession, earnings level, academic backgrounds and other variables that are known to have correlations with depression and suicidal thoughts, there was a clear damage to the people’s psychological well-being caused by second-hand smoking.’
Wow. Junk science has properly jumped the shark this time.
Roo, it jumped the WHALE a long time ago!
Grrr… after seeing that I typed it’s instead of its… well might just GO jump off the damn bridge. ::sigh:: I hate it when my fingers move independently of my brain.
MJM, who just realized… I can blame my own secondhand smoke! Yeah! That’s the ticket!
Yeah, take it to the bridge, man ;)
Mass hysteria run rampant. Antismoking is a cult belief. It must be countered.
Socialism. Communism. Fascism. Nazism. Eugenics. None of them crashed and burned. They are all still going and some are getting stronger.
Bees and falcons still exist, too; they’ve just, for the moment, lost their imagined power but who’s to say that in another 1000 or so years they won’t again be made gods? Or demons? Cigarettes were demons a hundred years ago, were heros fifty years ago and are demons again. In another fifty they may, like bees and falcons, just be cigarettes–until the next turn of the wheel. So too the Isms. All of them once worshipped as Saviors, discredited as demons, but lying in wait for their resurrections .
Being a bit of an animist myself, I think you may well be right, Waltc.
It all depends how you look at those Egyptian images.
Let’s not forget, when you smoke tobacco in a moment of deep contemplation you are communing with the Great Spirit whether you know it or not ,not to mention honouring all manner of forgotten South American smoking gods.
Which is the principle reason James 1st of England hated smoking tobacco so much and called it a heathen practice.
I burned tobacco in my garden at the start of the new cycle on 11:11 GMT 21st of December 2012, I thought we could do with all the help we could get.
Better safe than sorry.
Incidentally, when checking that post, I was very surprised when Wikipedia informed me that “Today, 03:34, Saturday, May 7, 2016 (UTC), in the Long Count is 22.214.171.124.13 (based on the GMT correlation).
It’s also my birthday. : )
Happy Birthday, Rose. Have a wonderful day.
Roses to Rose, ASH to trash.
Happy birthday, Rose. And may there be many more.
Thank you all, I have had a lovely birthday and the sun shone all day.
Happy Rose ‘n Happy Sun ‘n Happy BIRTHDAY!
They are all still going and some are getting stronger.
Well, yes. The old crazinesses never quite die out. And antismoking craziness has its origins in Nazi and eugenic craziness. As also does Green/environmentalism.
Maybe they just stop wearing jackboots, and start wearing loafers instead.
Cargo Cult Science by Richard Feynman :
I have rejected the established religions and joined the Druids, it makes much more sense and I’m at last at peace with myself, I prefer to see the order as a path of self development rather than a religion.
Looking forward to the summer solstice, however smoking herbs as they do to favor the gods is one step too far cos it stinks like fuck, infact herbal vape flavours aren’t much better either.
I don’t know about “in another century or two” Frank, Ancient Egypt lasted thousands of years!
Pingback: Posty McPost Haste: Face Farce – Library of Libraries
Another superstition is that our elected leaders reflect the will of the majority of the people.
Most politicians are elected with, at most, about one in four people having voted for them and three out of four people not having voted for them.
Out of 100 adults, about 90 will be eligible to vote.
Of that 90, about 75 will register to vote.(68 of 100)
In most elections, only about 60% of those registered,or 41 of the original 100 will actually vote.
51% wins, or about 21 of the original 100.
That is one in five of the original 100.
At least, in he USA, we get a direct vote for our Prez.
In some countries, folks do not get to directly vote for their PM or whoever heads the govt.
Yes and no, considering the electoral college which can trump (pun intended pr not) rhe popular vote. Remember the “hanging chads”?
And belaredly, happy birthdy, Rose
Belatedly and birthday. The latest ipad update changed the fonts on the keyboard and the r looks loke a t. I hate upgrades
Oh and then there’s this business of them saying:
“Governments are elected to govern”
which, if memory serves, was a favourite of Tony Blair.
Even Mickey Mouse figures in public office repeat the phrase (end of para five)
So reminiscent of anti-smoking science:
There are no agreed mechanisms which point to how red meat could cause disease or death.
“Even the evidence on bowel cancer, which is the area with the most data — as noted by WHO last year — has not provided a consensus on mechanisms.”